For my Florist Friday blog post series this week, I’m delighted to feature an interview with Cappy Whitehouse of White & Winsome.
Could you tell us what prompted you to become a florist?
Newly sprung from the secondary education system, I landed within the fashion industry…oh so young and hungry for adventure. These were my formative years and there I found originality in every well-groomed corner. I loved the excitement of the changing seasons, the new textures, colours and forms. I revelled in seeing how designers had translated their inspirations into new collections and how they presented them to the world. I waited in anticipation to see deliveries to the office of beautiful floral thank yous from PR companies, designers and fashionistas. And loved the way that these gifts often mirrored ideas from that season’s catwalks. Many of these delights came via Jane Packer. A few years later and fed up with shoulder pads, I saw an ad in The Standard for an apprentice at the lovely James Street shop of Jane Packer Floral Design. I knew a change was gonna come. Off I went and fell in love the moment I walked through the door. My world did change. I discovered what hard work really was and how every day brought something new. I thrived on the excitement of opening the lids of boxes newly delivered from New Covent Garden Flower Market to discover new varieties catching the industry’s attention. I even quite liked the thrill of finding new ways to extract thorns from sore fingers on the journey home!
Could you tell us how your floristry career has progressed?
Years passed, I got married, flowers provided of course by my lovely and talented friends at Jane Packer. I decided to have me some children. The next path took me in a freelance direction. Working from my kitchen and various sheds, I continued to work with lovely brides-to-be, got caught up in preparations for their big day, was honoured to be one of the very first who knew what the frock was like and cherished the moment when I saw the bride and her nearest and dearest sporting my designs. The children grew, the sheds got bigger, the use of social media became unavoidable. We had a re-brand. White & Winsome was born, a lovely new website was developed and we continue to produce gaspingly gorgeous flowers for all sorts of wonderful events.
When did you start your business and where are you based?
I suppose Cappy Whitehouse Flowers began in earnest around 1998 with breaks to develop skills in other industries and to garner some all-important business know-how. Never underestimate the power of booking-keeping and budgeting. We’re based in the not very glamorous sounding Gravesend in Kent, in ‘The Garden of England’. Not wanting to sound like a representative for the local tourist board, but, us Kentish dwellers are blessed being surrounded by wonderful sea and countryside, and to have some of the country’s most beautiful wedding venues within our reach…along with some wonderful producers of fantastic food and drink, bread and even flowers supplying an ever thriving wedding and party scene. But we do love to travel. So are happy to cross borders. Weddings that have been graced by our designs have been as far flung as Northampton and a lighthouse near Margate. We’ve even sent bridal bouquets out to Milan.
Where do you get inspiration for your floral designs?
Being open-minded helps. Remember the little things, the simple pleasures and apply them to your work. Be it a snowdrop covered verge or the zinnia stuffed recycled tin at the restaurant where you had a great meal. I’d say inspiration for our designs comes in many forms. Clever people, clever things. Watching developments in interiors and food culture. Simply looking from the window to see the changes in hedgerows and parks throughout the seasons, our garden cum very overgrown olive grove in Catalunya and Pinterest. Great design ideas are everywhere you just have to keep your eyes open. The clever designer partner in White & Winsome, Mark, also owns the graphic design studio Second Opinion. So he’s very much on top of what’s happening and what’s not and is constantly pinging me clever and interesting bits. (He’s also pretty handy with a roll of pot tape). Gardens inspire me. Not a gardener myself, I appreciate the schemes and themes that the horticulturally-minded come up with, from roundabouts hectic with narcissi to the wonderful garden at Great Dixter. Even urban window boxes planted with herbs and galvanised containers stuffed with silvery foliage. Not so long ago, I also did a stint working with the lovely people at Konditor & Cook. Watching the way the decorators develop ideas and translate current trends into delicious cakes for weddings and soirees is incredible. What they can’t do with a sponge and some icing! ‘Life is about the people you meet and the beauty of the things you create with them’. A quote from our website and how true it is.
How would you describe your style?
Thought-provoking I hope. Our style is…adaptable. Always beautiful. It has to be. Every new client brings their own ideas and it’s our job to translate them. I prefer informal, abundance with leanings toward the vintage. I like working with one variety but then also love the way that with flowers you can mix them up to your heart’s content. Put prickly purple thistles with soft pillowy hydrangeas or delicate sweet peas with boisterous blooms. The great thing with natural materials is that they grow together in the oddest of places. So why not reunite them out of context? The combinations are endless.
What kind of floristry services do you offer?
We supply whatever is needed wherever it’s needed. Floristry holds no bounds. We’re happy to work with clients to enhance product launches and parties. To come up with funeral tributes which reflect the personalities of the dearly departed. And obviously we supply every floral accessory for bridal parties, from garlands to great big pedestals, bouquets to buttonholes, special corsages for the Mother of the Bride and sweet cones of petal confetti for guests. Our biggest asset, I think, are our personalities. We’re a friendly bunch. I use only like-minded freelance collaborators with a deep-founded acknowledgement that every wedding should be unique. We work very closely with brides to understand what it is that will make their day special and respect their wish list. Unless of course they ask for tropical fish to be swimming around their table centres. We were asked, but politely steered them in a more ethical direction!
What are your plans for the remainder of 2013/2014?
2013 saw the launch and rebrand of White & Winsome florals with the rather exciting addition very shortly of a range of wedding stationery and frivolity. Every wedding has a theme and working with White & Winsome design means that ideas can be carried throughout, from the Save the Date cards to the seating plan. Incorporating colour schemes and quirky styling ideas that make a wedding or party personal and unforgettable. We shall also be ramping up our social media and marketing activities. Continuing to add to our blog, which is great. I love the opportunity to let people know what we’ve been up to and what’s made us laugh. I think it allows people to get to know you a bit and get a feel for who you are and hopefully lets them feel like they’re in a safe pair of like-minded hands. Plus weddings. Lots of weddings, in these days of miserable recession, it’s nice to know people, including myself, still like a good wedding. It’s a chance for a good old-fashioned get-together and a chance to show off ideas that may have been being collected by the bride since she was a young girl dreaming of romance. A lovely couple, John and Amy inspired by all things F. Scott Fitzgerald wanted more than a passing nod to the Jazz age for their wedding theme this year. A garden party with lawns sweeping down to the sea and dancing. Flapper style dresses and black tie were accompanied by decadent bunches of full-blown peonies and lashings of champagne. The simple peony table arrangements were adorned with individual pastel flags naming characters from the Great Gatsby. And the invites rather cleverly used the spelling of the bride and grooms names to create ‘oh my’. Oh my indeed. The whole day came together in a whirl of pearls and jazz.
What is your favourite flower?
Favourite flower. Hmmm…I read with interest previous interviewees’ responses to this question. And how true it is. To be able to pinpoint the one is the million dollar question. I like anything that makes me sigh or which provokes a reaction. Sunflowers always make me smile. Peonies always make me want to bury my face in their heavenly scent. But if pushed, roses, garden ones, in all of their full blown glory. Or is it sweet peas, or dahlias, or hellebores, or snowdrops…
Thank you so much to Cappy for all her help in compiling today’s blog post. I really enjoyed reading through her answers and love her writing style. To see more of Cappy’s beautiful floral designs, please do pop over to the White & Winsome website.
Social Media Links
To keep up-to-date with Cappy’s news, here’s where you can find her on social media:
(Images : White & Winsome)